Teachers and students appear to have had mixed reactions to the second set of Leaving Certificate maths papers.

Robert Chaney of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) reported students finding yesterday morning’s higher and ordinary level papers easier than their first maths exams on Friday, helped by regular hints.

For ordinary-level students, it was made clear in one question that they could use a chart or charts to represent data from a statistical table, prompting them to realise they could make their points in more than one way.

Mr Chaney said the exam featured many standard and straightforward questions, and he identified the need for Pythagoras’ theorem in three different questions.

A question about last year’s Brexit referendum in the UK was considered very straightforward and topical. However, students might have misunderstood what was being sought in one part that looked for mean values of combined age groups’ voting patterns.

Brid Griffin, maths spokesperson for the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), said some students were a bit confused by a mix of topics within questions.

In a co-ordinate geometry question, she thought it was regrettable that students were restricted to using trigonometry to find the size of an angle when they might have used their own logic to do so by other methods.

Elsewhere, Ms Griffin felt that questions on statistics and probability were along usual lines, while there was a very direct and straightforward trigonometry question.

It was quite a long paper overall, a point that the TUI spokesperson also made about the higher-level paper 2.

An example at higher level was a thought-provoking but time-consuming area and volume question about the placement of two cones into a cylinder. She felt the amount of work on the paper probably left students little or no time to check their work at the end.

While there were subtle differences from previous years to the ordering of questions, she said that is a welcome way of avoiding predictability.

Co-ordinate geometry questions were along usual lines, and many students’ concerns about answering on statistics and probability were probably eased by a very straightforward question.

Mr Chaney said the higher level paper had a very healthy amount of geometry, which would have pleased most students.

He thought they would have found one question about the relationship between the sizes of a sphere and two cones to be interesting. Another they may have liked was a very straightforward application of the normal distribution of the weights of 15-year-olds.

The last question about a tree by a river bank required students to calculate its height and how far on the other side it would land if knocked. Mr Chaney said it was challenging but students were rewarded if they kept at it and worked out what they had to do.

Leaving Certificate Irish was examined in the afternoon and TUI subject spokesperson Ruth Morrissey said both exams were extremely fair.

While she was pleased with the standard of the listening test for both levels, ASTI’s Irish spokesperson Robbie Cronin thought the first section about a vacancy at Foras na Gaeilge was very tough for ordinary-level students.

He said the composition topics at higher level were very topical, including political leaders, the Irish education system, and Ireland as a fair or unfair society. 

Students could write about the housing problem or Brexit if they chose to write a speech or debate.

However, Ms Morrissey had a concern that some of the topics were quite narrow elements of subjects they would otherwise be quite strong on. 

For example, an essay about sport was specifically focused on scandals, and the education title had to be just on second level.

On the other hand, she said, the time allowed for the paper gave them plenty of space to think out their work and decide which title they could work best with.

She thought there was a fair and balanced choice of compositions for ordinary level students, with topics they would likely have covered in class. 

One story choice was based around their joy at a birthday gift from parents, or they could write about a conversation with a parent about seeking permission to attend a friend’s party.

Mr Cronin agreed that there was plenty of choice of essays, stories, letters or conversations.


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